UC service workers threaten to strike

July 3, 2008 6:23:31 PM PDT
Service employees working for the University of California system have threatened to hold a five-day strike, but union President Lakesha Harrison said today that picketing won't begin before July 12.

As a courtesy, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents 8,500 UC service workers at 10 campuses and five hospitals, gave university officials 10 days notice Wednesday of a possible strike, according to Harrison.

The notice was given in part because the same union represents 11,500 patient care workers who may decide not to cross picket lines, Harrison said.

UC spokeswoman Nicole Savickas said Wednesday that university officials had received the strike notice and were preparing to invite union negotiators back to the bargaining table.

"We're prepared to bargain and we hope that the union will return to the table," Savickas said.

Harrison said today that union representatives would not go back for further contract discussions unless university officials substantially changed their offer.

The union claims that service employees, who clean hospitals and campus dorms, disinfect medical instruments, provide cafeteria services to patients and students, maintain buildings and grounds and provide transportation to patients, students and staff, are being paid "poverty wages."

Some service employees currently earn as little as $10 per hour, which union representatives claim is 25 percent lower than the average service worker's salary outside the UC system.

Savickas said university officials offered in May to increase wages to between $11.50 and $12 per hour, but the union rejected the offer and voted to authorize a strike instead.

Savickas also said that part of the problem with the contract negotiations is that service employee salaries are funded through the state, and until the state budget is finalized, university officials won't know how much those funds will be impacted by projected budget cuts.


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